JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - For whatever reasons, the fact that Asean leaders have not been able to appoint their special envoy for Myanmar almost one month after their summit in Jakarta is just ridiculous.
It is a very simple undertaking that does not need very comprehensive considerations. The leaders themselves have decided to pick the special envoy who will act on their behalf. Why should it take them so long just to choose a name?
Several potential candidates have been publicly touted, such as former Indonesian foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda, a veteran diplomat whose reputation is internationally recognised.
How can we expect Asean to play a leading role in bringing peace back to Myanmar after the Tatmadaw (Myanmar's military) toppled the democratically elected government of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb 1 when it has not been able to complete a very simple job for almost one month?
When President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and five other Asean leaders met with Myanmar's junta leader Min Aung Hlaing at the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta on April 24, they reached a five-point consensus: There shall be immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and all parties shall exercise utmost restraint; constructive dialogue among all parties concerned shall commence to seek a peaceful solution in the interest of the people; a special envoy of the Asean chair (Brunei) shall facilitate mediation of the dialogue process; Asean shall provide humanitarian assistance through the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management; and the envoy shall visit Myanmar to meet all parties concerned.
As the chair of Asean this year, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has the privilege of choosing the envoy who will work closely with Asean secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi.
President Widodo conversed with fellow Asean leaders on Saturday, and although he did not explicitly say, the issue of the special envoy should have been discussed. Since the April 24 summit, the situation in Myanmar has worsened because the military has increased its brutality to kill, jail and harass people who oppose the junta leader.
Therefore, Asean should name the special envoy as soon as possible and give the Tatmadaw no chance to reject the envoy, or else it will impede Asean's efforts to end the human rights violations in Myanmar.
Asean is racing against time, as millions of people in Myanmar have been living in anxiety amid starvation and the Covid-19 pandemic.
General Min Aung Hlaing will continue to spread fear because he believes it is the most effective way to cling to power.
He may also doubt Asean will dare to take bold actions against him. As the initiator of the Asean Special Summit, it just makes sense for President Widodo to be more involved personally in dealing with the Myanmar issue, instead of waiting for other Asean leaders to take the initiative.
As the largest member of the regional grouping, Indonesia's leadership is just natural and acceptable.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi needs to convince President Widodo that Indonesia should translate the consensus of the April 24 summit into actions.
Other Asean leaders will support and follow him. Asean, hurry up please.
- The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.